Heather graduated from SFU in 2001 with a degree in Mathematics, a certificate in Computing Science and a certificate in Liberal Arts. She completed her Masters of Education in Secondary Mathematics at UBC and then continued on to complete a second degree, a Masters of Educational Technology while working full time as a teacher.
She is currently working as a secondary school math teacher at Southridge School in South Surrey - a private school with students from kindergarten to grade 12. Heather was recently the recipient of the BC Association of Math Teachers 2008 Outstanding New Teacher Award. It's awarded based on numerous criteria such as the effort to expand professional expertise, demonstration of excellence in teaching style and current curriculum trends, and shows evidence of significant positive impact on students, staff and parents. "I was thrilled to receive the award!" says Heather, "I've worked hard at my job and I was happy to have been recognized by the teaching community."
Heather likes to approach every math class with energy and enthusiasm. She explains her teaching style, "I try out different ways of teaching the students like we tried to do cryptography with the grade 8's. I learn as the children learn, and they're happy to see that you're learning with them. They can see that I'm excited to teach the material, and a lot of what I teach combines technology with academics, which students find very interesting."
When she first began her studies at SFU, Heather wasn't sure what career she was aiming for. "I tried a bunch of areas and the one area I enjoyed was math and I also loved to coach volleyball and netball." She explains, "As I continued on in my math degree, I realized that if I went into teaching I would also get to continue coaching. I loved working with students in high school so it just made sense to continue on to get my B.Ed after completing my B.Sc."
Heather worked full time while completing her studies at SFU. It was a delicate balancing act where she learned to manage her time very efficiently. She attributes many of her current skills to what she learned while completing her degree at SFU. Mainly, she says she learned "the different theories of math that I can share with my students."
"Computing science is also useful because of the technology we use in the classroom." She explains that the discipline that math demands of its students also help her on a daily basis in and out of the classroom. Not to mention "the knowledge of math itself," which she explains as a math teacher, is essential. Through study groups, she also learned how to understand the different approaches individuals must take in order to learn the material. "I saw all of the different learning styles and approaches to their studies," says Heather. "It helped me to consider different ways to teach the subject to help all students because not everyone learns mathematics in the same manner."
According to Faye Stefan, the mathematics Co-op Coordinator at SFU, there is an uneven ratio of males to females within the Mathematics Department. The department is currently about 75% male. Heather insists this gender gap was not a barrier to her while she was at SFU. "It wasn't difficult at all. We did have a group of girls and we ended up being really tight friends."
While at SFU, Heather worked at the library, and was involved in a number of campus activities including rugby, the snowboard club, and was an organizer of intramural sports. Her experience with SFU sports has been very useful in her current position allowing her to be a volleyball coach for students at Southridge school.
Her advice to SFU students is, "Don't overdo it. Spread out your courses. I found that taking three or four courses in spring and fall, and then a couple of summer courses was better than taking five courses in the spring and fall semesters." Heather explains, "Being on campus all year round helped me with meeting other students and I really got to know people in the faculty."